Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Michael Bay
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Maheen II, Eiza Gonzalez, Garret Dillahunt, Kier O’Donnell, A Martinez, Jackson White.
Two bank robbers (Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Maheen II) hijack an ambulance to escape from a botched bank robbery. Inside the ambulance is Cam Thompson (Eiza Gonzalez, from Baby Driver, etc) a dedicated paramedic who is working to keep a seriously wounded police officer alive.
Danny Sharp (played by Gyllenhaal) is a veteran bank robber, whose father was also a career criminal. But unlike his more violent father, Danny has never killed anyone during his bank robberies – yet. He is about to take on his biggest score, some $32 million from a downtown LA bank. But he is approached by his adopted brother Will (Abdul-Maheen II, from The Matrix Resurrections, etc) a former veteran soldier who is struggling financially. His wife is seriously ill but the insurance company is refusing to pay for the experimental treatment that will keep her alive. Will asks Danny for help, but instead of loaning him the money he takes him along on the heist, promising him a lucrative payday.
But things go wrong when Zach (Jackson White from tv series The Middle, etc, in his first major film role), a lovelorn policeman, approached the bank anxious to chat up a pretty teller. The heist erupts into a bloody and violent shootout on the streets of LA, which is reminiscent of Michael Mann’s Heat. Zach is badly wounded. An ambulance arrives to take him away to hospital, and, desperate to escape, Danny and Will hijack the ambulance, holding Zach and Cam (Eiza Gonazalez, from Godzilla Vs Kong, etc) hostage.
This sets in motion a long chase through the streets and freeways and main waterway of LA. In charge of the pursuit is Monroe (Garret Dillahunt), who clashes frequently with Clark (Australian born actor Keir O’Donnell from The Dry, etc) a sympathetic FBI bank robbery expert who shares a history with Danny.
Michael Bay’s latest film is fast, loud and brash like most of his films but is arguably his best film since The Rock. It is a remake of a 2005 Danish thriller from Laurits Munch Petersen and Lars Andreas Pedersen . This remake is the first feature film script written by Chris Fedak, and fits Bay’s kinetic style perfectly. And unlike the low budget Danish original, this Hollywood remake has a massive $40 million budget, which can all be seen on the screen. Bay, who comes from a background in music videos and commercials, is incapable of holding a shot for more than ten seconds, but here it adds to the propulsive nature of the material.
There is plenty of action here, with a shootout on the streets of LA outside the bank and an extended car chase through the streets of LA with lots of vehicular destruction and mayhem. The chase does drag on a little too long and becomes a bit repetitive. Ambulance has been shot on the streets of Los Angeles by cinematographer Roberto De Angelis, and he gives us a strong sense of location. He employs lots of drone shots that add to the vertiginous feel of the material. Bay brings claustrophobic tension to the scenes inside the ambulance as Cam struggles to keep the wounded officer alive. Lorne Balfe’s bombastic score suits the dramatic nature of the material.
A wonderful dynamic develops between the three leads as they try to navigate this difficult situation, and their testy exchanges add to the tension but also allows in plenty of edgy humour . Gyllenhaal is good as the volatile Danny, and is charismatic enough to make his villain earn audience sympathy. Will is the more sympathetic of the two, and Abdul-Mateen brings strength and decency to his role as the conflicted character. Gonzalez is solid as Cam and brings strength and intelligence to her role.
Ambulance is a big dumb action film and fans of Bay’s kinetic hyperactive filmmaking style will revel in it.
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